‘Next attack on US could originate in Pakistan’
* Washington Times editorial accuses Pakistan of harbouring Al Qaeda and appeasing radicals
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: In a hard-hitting editorial, the right-wing daily Washington Times accused Pakistan on Thursday of harbouring Al Qaeda and placating radical domestic groups. The next attack on the US, the newspaper said, could originate from Pakistan as its politicians try to “out-demagogue one another in denouncing the United States for killing terrorists”.
The newspaper, which often takes a neo-conservative line on issues of terrorism and America’s place in the world, noted with regret that Islamabad seems less concerned about its territory being used for an attack on the US than about placating radical domestic groups. “As the US military steps up its operations against these terrorist networks inside Pakistan, that country’s politicians try to out-demagogue one another in denouncing the US for killing terrorists. Seven years after September 11, Pakistan’s internal decline could have catastrophic consequences for the US.”
The newspaper charged that Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has “created a new safe haven for terrorist training and indoctrination on Pakistani soil, threatening the sovereignty and freedom” of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where more than 50,000 foreign troops are fighting to ensure that that Afghanistan does not again become a base for launching attacks against the US.
The security situation in Pakistan is deteriorating to the point where American officials need to “consider the unthinkable - that Pakistan in a worst-case scenario could become a launching pad for another strike against this country”. Both former president General (r) Musharraf and the democratically elected government have had a mixed record in co-operating with US efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. On the plus side, however, many Pakistani soldiers have died fighting the terrorists, and Pakistani security forces have helped with the capture of terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. According to the Washington Times, in other ways, Pakistan “aids and abets terror”. The editorial repeats that charge, which Pakistan has denied, that the ISI staged the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Islamabad’s “refusal to confront Al Qaeda” has helped create a de facto safe haven for the group and its allies in locations like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A US intelligence official has compared Al Qaeda’s operational and organisational advantages in FATA to those it enjoyed in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda, he charged, was training and positioning its operatives to carry out attacks in the West, probably including the United States. He said the attacks might occur using operatives who were legal residents of the US or European countries with passports that would allow them to travel here without a visa.